This paper explores how the principles of the deontological ethics can be applied to the discussion of using animals in the medical research and laboratory experiments. The specific type of the deontological ethics that is applied to the topic in the paper is the Kantian theory. In spite of the fact that deontologists can view the Kantian ethics as only indirectly related to the issue of animal rights, it is important to apply the Kantian principles to the current research.
The reason is that the use of animals in medical research cannot be viewed as unethical because people intentionally cause suffering to animals. They seem to forget about the moral duty while causing pain and harm. As a result, animals are not treated equally to humans, and universal principles associated with the moral imperative are violated. In addition, while ignoring the use of alternative procedures in medical research, people do not focus on evaluating and utilizing all means to act morally.
Ethics of Using Animals in Medical Research and Experiments
The use of animals in the medical research and laboratory experiments is a significant ethical issue. The matter needs to be discussed from the perspective of deontologists who refer to the idea of the moral duty as imperative to influence human actions. In this context, it is important to focus on the principles of deontological ethics proposed by Immanuel Kant.
The application of the Kantian theory to the issue of animal rights and medical research has both strengths and weaknesses because of the character of this specific type of ethics.
While referring to the unethical use of animals in medical research according to the deontological perspective, it is important to note that people cause animals’ suffering without focusing on their moral duty not to harm; in addition, animals are not treated equally to humans in spite of the universal principles; and ignoring alternative procedures in medical research, humans do not choose the morally right action.
The Kantian deontological ethics is related to the topic of animal rights directly because a man, who cannot treat animals ethically, cannot treat other humans morally, while violating rules and duties. According to Kant, a man should be kind while treating animals because violence against non-humans indicates that the person is immoral, and this individual cannot be objectively viewed as a good man (Kant, 2013; Oliver, 2010, p. 269).
From this perspective, a person acts morally right when he or she avoids the animal exploitation because this person does not want such exploitation for a man. Furthermore, the moral duty should help a person understand that he or she can avoid causing harm and pain for animals because this person will not cause suffering for a man intentionally.
It is important to note that the Kantian deontological ethics is rather strong to provide the background for discussing the use of animals in the medical research as an immoral practice. The key claim for this research is based on the idea that animals suffer from pain as results of experiments and they can be maimed and harmed significantly. From this point, a person who allows animals’ suffering violates his moral duty because this person does not expect the same treatment for oneself (Cavalieri, 2011, p. 84).
As a result, the principles of the Kantian deontological ethics also explain why it is almost impossible to treat animals and humans involved in the medical research differently. According to the Kantian idea of universalism, the moral action should be rule-based regardless the situation and actors (Warkentin, 2010). If humans are respected during the research, animals should also be respected, and alternative means and approaches should be selected to protect animals.
However, there are also weaknesses in applying the Kantian theory to the issue of using animals in medical research. The problem is in the fact that Kant distinguishes conscious and non-conscious actors. Humans are conscious, therefore, their dignity and rights should be respected (Kant, 2013).
Animals are non-conscious, and there is a question about their rights. Nevertheless, even if animals can have more limited rights than humans because of being irrational and non-conscious, it does not mean that humans can be cruel and violent while treating animals in laboratories (Warkentin, 2010, p. 102). From this point, the Kantian theory differs from the other types of deontological ethics in terms of discussing the moral duty of a man as objective and independent from focusing on conditions and consequences.
Thus, from the deontological perspective, the use of animals in the medical research is unethical because humans demonstrate unkindness while treating animals and forgetting about the universal and objective character of their moral duties.
Allowing the focus on distinction between humans and animals, people cannot act ethically because of violating the objective moral rules. When a person chooses to use an animal in the experiment and research instead of selecting the alternative approach, he or she focuses on consequences of the action rather than on its moral nature, as it is explained according to the Kantian theory.
Cavalieri, P. (2011). Do we need continental philosophy?: Nonhumans, ethics, and the complexity of reality. The New Centennial Review, 11(2), 83-113.
Kant, I. (2013). On the metaphysics of morals and ethics. New York, NY: Start Publishing.
Oliver, K. (2010). Animal ethics: Toward an ethics of responsiveness. Research in Phenomenology, 40(1), 267-280.
Warkentin, T. (2010). Interspecies etiquette: An ethics of paying attention to animals. Ethics & the Environment, 15(1), 101-121.